Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2015

Gujarat No 1 in ease of doing business. Really?

Gujarat is, again, No 1— assessed for “ease” of doing business. At least this is what a new report, titled “Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms”, is said to have made out by a World Bank report. The moment news broke out, I was amused, and decided to go to the source.

Why Gujarat imposed mobile internet curfew during the Patel agitation

It was Wednesday, October 31, 1984. After finalizing the semi-left Link newsweekly, for which I worked then, the office driver boldly drove the Ambassador late at night through Delhi streets, which were already in the grip of anti-Sikh riots, erupted following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The driver squeezed his way through burning vehicles. At several places we could see houses in flames and heard painful, shrieking voices. It was a ghastly scenario, of the type I had never witnessed, or even imagined, before. I reached home, a middle class South Delhi locality; to my consolation all was quiet, though we had a Sikh neighbour.

The dye is caste in Gujarat

I think it was 1994 when I first met Japanese scholar Takashi Shinoda, an Indologist, during my routine visit to the Sardar Patel Institute of Economic and Social Research, Ahmedabad, at that time still known for some quality research. Once headed such academics of highest order such as DT Lakdawala and YK Alagh, the institute has since collapsed – at least this is what I learn from Gujarat’s academic circles, with whom I had developed good rapport before I was shifted to Gandhinagar to report on government affairs for the Times of India in 1997.

“Vulnerable” Gujarat Patidars, others agitate for reservation

As I was sipping morning tea the other day, an idea came to my mind: Why not ask the age of the young man who is said to be “leading” the current Patidar or Patel reservation stir, Hardik Patel – an agitation that has put Gujarat back on the national map after more than a year. In fact, ever since Narendra Modi left Gandhinagar to occupy the gaddi in Delhi, the view has gone pretty strong, at least in my media fraternity, that Gujarat has “lost its importance”. A few TV channels have even “withdrawn” their senior journalists from Gujarat, telling them that there is “no news in the state”.

Displacement-induced development

The year was 2012, when D Jagatheesa Pandian, a Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, was state energy secretary. Accompanied with two journalist colleagues, I dashed into his room on finding he had no guests to entertain. A seasoned official who became Gujarat chief secretary two years later, Pandian welcomed us with a broad smile. One who had the longest stint at the state-owned Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), almost 10 years, Pandian, to most of us, was synonymous to GSPC’s oil-and-gas exploration. One who can claim to have made Gujarat number 1 in the use of gas by providing most of the over 3,000-km-long gas pipeline network, he was also known to us as Gujarat’s “gas man” for another reason – he took GSPC to the KG Basin off Andhra coast, apart from going “multinational” to Egypt, Australia, Yemen and Indonesia for “exploratory” exploits. It is quite another thing that, not only GSPC’s multinational ventures, even the KG Basin oil-and-gas fields, have been either abandoned o…

CSR in Gujarat: A misguided view

It is titled “Small but Meaningful”, and is subtitled “CSR in Practice”. Authored by Maheswar Sahu, an influential Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat who retired as state industries secretary in 2014, who claims to be “instrumental” in organizing Narendra Modi’s high profile Vibrant Gujarat business summits of 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2013, the book has Jeevan Prakash Mohanty, a researcher at the Energy and Resources Institute, as the second author. While poor production and print quality may seem jarring, making many to believe it is over-priced (Rs 1,100), a peep into the book would provide one with an insight into how independently and analytically some of our high-profile bureaucrats have been thinking.

A school in Gujarat seeks to fight caste, plastics

A decade-long experiment, taking shape 100 kilometres from Ahmedabad, halfway to Rajkot, the business hub of Saurashtra region of Gujarat, appears have largely gone unnoticed. Just next to the National Highway 8A, not very far from the sleepy Katariya village, the premier Dalit rights NGO of Gujarat, Navsarjan Trust, is running a higher primary school, for classes 5 to 8, seeking to turn it into a “model” for other schools to follow. It is one of the three schools run by Navsarjan — the other two being near the Rayka village in Ahmedabad district and Sami village in Patan district.

Not so well-informed on Narmada

I have in my hand yet another book on advantages of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). “Supported” by the Gujarat government, and seemingly well researched on a quick scan, what intrigued me after going through it was, it seemed to fail to answer some of contentious questions that remain unanswered ever since the SSP was initiated full-scale in late 1980s. A closer look at the book, which has just been published by Sage, suggests that it fails to address critical issues affecting the project despite its declared aim to have a “well-informed debate” on the project. The term “well-informed”, quoted by the authors, also seemed intriguing — especially because it heavily relies on official sources of information, without referring even once to the sources which have questioned the some of the SSP’s benchmarks.